Member states of the WHO have established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to develop a so-called Pandemic Treaty, or new international instrument to guide how states prepare for and respond to future pandemics. At the first of two public hearings TAG submitted the following statement with six reasons why the new international instrument must explicitly acknowledge the right to science as a central guiding framework.
WHO Public Hearing Regarding a New International Instrument on Pandemic Preparedness and Response
Treatment Action Group Written Submission
April 13, 2022
A new international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response must explicitly acknowledge the right of everyone to benefit from scientific progress and its applications (right to science) as a central framework.
ICESCR Art. 15 (1) (b), (2), (3) and (4), and the 2020 CESCR General Comment 25 require states to develop, diffuse, and conserve scientific progress and its benefits.
Centering the right to science will ensure a new international instrument:
- Reminds states that preventing future pandemics requires ending pandemics today. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), viral hepatitis, and antimicrobial resistance, in particular, deserve concerted attention within any new international instrument.
- Enhances transparency in pandemic response by articulating a right of affected communities to participate at all levels of science, from the design of clinical trials to the creation of evidence-based health policies through e.g., community advisory boards and other engagement models.
- Defines ‘access’ as intangible scientific benefits (knowledge, information); the material results of scientific progress (medicines, vaccines, diagnostics); and the means, methods, and materials of scientific discovery.
- Articulates state obligations for purposive development of science and technology for public benefit in ways that ensure the availability, accessibility, affordability, and quality of scientific goods (e.g., diagnostics, vaccines, treatments).
- Invokes the obligation for international cooperation in science and health and turns solidarity statements into concerted action.
- Reiterates non-discrimination through the primacy of human rights over intellectual property (IP) protections so that exercise of IP during pandemics does not undermine the realization of human rights by privatizing public goods.